June 15, 2008 in Nation/World

Senator admits he got favorable loan deals

Tom Hamburger Los Angeles Times
The Spokesman-Review photo

(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Kent Conrad said Saturday that after reviewing e-mails from Countrywide Financial Corp., he learned that company officials had provided him with preferential treatment: a discount on one loan and a waiver of a company lending rule for another.

Although the favors were unsolicited, the Democrat from North Dakota said he would donate $10,500 to charity to compensate for unsolicited benefits he received.

Conde Nast’s Portfolio magazine reported last week that Conrad and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., were part of a special VIP program at Countrywide that provided special terms and discounts to Hollywood luminaries, national politicians and friends of Countrywide executives.

Dodd chairs the Senate Banking Committee, and Conrad sits on the Senate Finance Committee. Both panels consider matters of concern to Countrywide lobbyists.

Both senators said Friday they were not aware that they received special favors or that they were part of the “Friend of Angelo” program at Countrywide. The name refers to Angelo Mozilo, the company’s CEO.

Conrad said he had a brief conversation with Mozilo when seeking his loan for the vacation property. The telephone call was arranged by Conrad’s longtime friend, Jim Johnson, who recently resigned from Barack Obama’ presidential campaign because of questions over his own Countrywide loan discounts.

Dodd, who has been tough on Countrywide and other mortgage lenders in recent hearings, said he did not talk with Mozilo.

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